Where is my Oxygen - part -1

The solution to pollution in cities lies in developing forests. While developing roads it is equally important that the temperature on the roads must be maintained. This can only happen by plantation of trees on both sides of the Highways. The trees provide not only shade and help in reducing temperatures on the roads but also act as interceptors for noise & dust pollution that can travel long way.  Last but not the least the plantation helps in maintaining Oxygen levels, reduce soil erosion, increase water retention consequently, recharge of water table and prevent road destruction.  Therefore, I decided to pick up one National Highway for study and the results were startling.

 

Toady the percentage all polluting gases is assessed but no one estimates the quantum of oxygen in the atmosphere. Everyone is taking presence of oxygen for granted and no one is interested also as it would impact their business.

I remember as a child, way back in 70s  whenever I used to travel by road with my parents, I could see a Notice Board on roadside after unpaved shoulders all the State and National Highways stating

  1.  ” No Construction permitted within 30 meters after this point”
  2. “Construction within 30 meters strictly prohibited”

The reason for this restriction was that the  Highway Authorities of the State or Central had to plant trees on both sides of the roads. Till 2004 I never had opportunity to use Car AC and driving with windows rolled down used to be a fun. At night one could see a thick green arch with headlights on, that used to be a stress buster.

With the so-called development of National Highways all the trees disappeared and the barren Highways have been constructed, despite there being a mandate under India Road Congress Manual about mandatory plantation of Trees on 30 meters width on each side of the Highway and in case of Bypass roads it is 50 meters mandatory green on both sides of the Highway.

As on today India has about 1,12,000 KM of Highways. As per norms adopted by the National Highway Authority of India, mandatory Green of 30 meters on each side of the Highway/Scheduled road and 50 meters on both sides of any Bypass is to be maintained. Once we travel from Delhi to Amritsar or Delhi to Jaipur, we find that the entire stretch barring a few exceptions from Delhi to Amritsar the mandatory green belts have just disappeared. If we travel from Delhi to Bhopal and the moment, we cross Indore once again the mandatory green belt simply does not exist.

That,  if a conservative view of missing mandatory green belt is taken, India as a nation has lost approximately 9000 Sq KM of Green Cover computed by considering the length of NH as on today being approximately 1,12,000 Kilometers length multiplied by 80 (Average width of Green cover on both side of NH – 50+ 30= 80) divided by 1000. In view of the alarming increase in the temperature throughout the country and due to the massive deforestation throughout the country leading to depletion of green cover consequently has multiplied the air pollution, noise Pollution and also has led to deletion of water table. Therefore, the intervention of this Hon’ble Tribunal becomes necessary before the condition becomes worse.  This is a huge loss to the Green Cover of the country, which is struggling with acute shortage of water and faced with humungous air and noise pollution.

 

National Highway -1, NH-1 is the oldest and most prestigious Highway was originally known as Sher Shah Suri Marg later on named as ‘Grand Trunk Road’ connecting Bengal with Kabul Lahore, was widened to eliminate the traffic congestion. Similarly, Delhi – Jaipur Highway, now known as National Highway -8 (NH-8) was widened to ease the traffic congestion. Both the Highways i.e. NH-1 & NH-8 are now toll roads. Despite having been widened, during the marriage season the traffic congestion on both NH-1 & Nh-8 causes huge traffic jam running into quite a few kilometers causing thousands of vehicles to crawl leading to criminal wastage of Fuel that multiplies pollution levels of already highly polluted city of Delhi, leave alone wastage of the man hours and precious foreign exchange that goes up in flame.

National Highways are developed and maintained by National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) constituted under 'National Highways Authority of India Act, 1988, (Act) that extends to whole of India. The NHAI exercises full control on the lands acquired for the purposes of Development of National Highways by virtue of powers conferred under sections 11 & 12 of the Act. Further, section 15 of the Act empowers the NHAI to sign the agreements & contracts with the State Governments, or tripartite agreements Private Parties and the State Governments. Section 16 provides for the functions of the NHAI, some of which are reproduced as under:-

 

16(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the provisions contained  

              in     sub— section (1), the Authority may, for the discharge of 

        its functions —

  1. survey, develop, maintain and manage highways vested in, or entrusted to, it;
  2. construct offices or workshops and establish and maintain hotels, motels, restaurants and rest-rooms at or near the highways vested in, or entrusted to, it;
  3. construct residential buildings and townships for its employees;

 

  1. regulate and control the plying of vehicles on the highways vested in, or entrusted to, it for the proper management thereof;

 

  1. develop and provide consultancy and construction services in  India and abroad and carry on research activities in relation  to  the development, maintenance and management of highways or any facilities thereat;
  2. provide such facilities and amenities for the users of the highways vested in, or entrusted to, it as are, in the opinion of the Authority, necessary for the smooth flow of traffic on such highways

 

Further, the manual prepared by Indian Road Congress ‘Guidelines on Landscaping and Tree Plantation- 2009’ guides the NHAI for the purposes of maintaining the green cover. This manual not only provides for types of trees to be planted but also provides for the guidelines for land scaping the extent thereof. The basic concept is that the trees should be planted along with the Highway to maintain ecological balance between the Pollution and the development and future need for expansion of roads and insulate the population living nearby from Noise Pollution, dust and emission pollution. The Concessionaires as per terms and conditions of tripartite agreements are under obligation to ensure afforestation all along with the Highway being constructed by them. However, the concessionaires have got away without afforesting the National Highways developed by them. NHAI on one hand did not recovered the cost of afforestation paid to the concessionaires on one hand and  on the other hand it has to incur huge expenditure now for afforestation of the National Highways.

I took up study of State of Haryana and observed that the State of Haryana had introduced an act titled as Haryana Urban Development Act, 1977, for planned urban development in the State of Haryana and to provide facilities, amenities including basic amenities, buildings through a development plan. The relevant text of these as provided under section 2 of the HUDA Act, 1977 (Act) are reproduced as under: -

 

  1. Amenity – includes roads, water-supply, street lighting, drainage (sewerage, treatment and disposal of sewerage, sullage and storm water), public works, tourist spots, open spaces, parks, landscaping and play fields and such conveniences as the State Government may notify;

 

(ai) ‘basic amenties’ include metaled roads, wholesome water, sewage

and electrifications;

 

  1.  

Roads and Controlled Area Restriction of Unregulated Development

Act, 1963 or the Faridabad Complex (Regulation and Development

Act, 1971

 

  1.  

and includes any person for the time being appointed by the State

Govt., by notification, to exercise and perform all or any of the

powers and functions of the Director under this Act and Rules made

  •  

Consequently, Director of Town and Country Planning,  State Govt. of Haryana, in exercise of powers vested, has issued notifications prescribing minimum mandatory green belt along with the Highways and has uploaded the same on web sites. A summary of some of the Notifications is reproduced as under: -

 

Town

Notification No & date

 Description of Road

Mandatory   Green

Jhajjar

CCP (NCR)/JJR/DDP-/2012/2211 dated 13th July,2012

 Rewari -Rohtak Road (National Highway -352)

 60 metres wide with 60 metres green belt on both sides

Ambala

CCP(NCR)/AMB/FDP/2008/ 2286 dated 14th August, 2008

Delhi-Ambala-Amritsar Road (National Highway number -I)        

Existing width with 60 meters green belt on either sides out side municipal limit

 

 

Ambala-Chandigarh Road (National Highway number -22

Existing width with 60 meters green belt on either sides out side municipal limit

 

 

Ambala-Hisar Road (National Highway number  -65) 

Existing width with 60 meters green belt on either sides out side municipal limit.

 

 

Ambala-Naraingarh Road (National Highway number -72)                                       

Existing width with 60 meters green belt on either sides out side municipal limit

Kurukshetra

CCP(NCR)/ KKR-1/FDP/2008/3131  dated 25th November,

2008

National Highway number – 1 

Existing

Existing width with 100/50 metres green belt on both sides .

Hisar

CCP(NCR)/FDD/HCA-1/2003/3193 dated 19th December,2003

Northern Bye-pass

 Existing width 60 metres ( 100 metres wide green belt on both side road.

Gurgaon-Manesar

CCP (NCR) FDP (G) /2007/359 dated  5th February, 2007

V-1 Road Existing Delhi-Jaipur National Highway and other roads connecting the Gurgaon-Manesar Urban Complex with other towns of the area. (Arterial Roads)

 

Existing widths

Panipat

CCP(NCR)/FDD/PN/PCA/2006/3936 dated 18th December 2006

V-1(a)

National Highway No.1 100/50meteres green belt on both sides

 

V-1(b)

National Highway No. 71A,

100/50meteres green belt on both sides

 

 

 

With green belt 60 meters  on both sides

Pinjore-Kalka

2415-IVDP-72/1329 dated 21st March, 1972

(i) M-l(a)    Existing Pinjore-Parwanoo Bye-pass

 

 

 ii) M-1  (b) Old NH-21A from NH-22 to railway crossing at NH-21-A.

 

 iii) M-2   Existing Pinjore-Nalagarh NH-21A

60.0 mi. wide with 100 mtrs .green belts on both sides.  

 

 

 

 

to be widened to 60.0 mt. with 100 mt. green belt on both sides.  (Outside M.C. Limit).

 

 

Since I am a

frequent travel and prefer road travel wherever I can ,so I found that the area meant for Mandatory Green has been allowed to be encroached by the eateries, hotels small eating houses, Dhabas etc with impunity. These encroachments are cause of serious concern as these are cause of serious accidents, that are very often reported. rules and procedures by State Governments and NHAI have been brazenly flouted  by allowing and permitting the setting up and operation of various farm houses, banquet Halls, eateries, Havelis, gaming parks and hotels on both sides of the National Highways, may be with or without any permission from National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), or the concerned State Governments causing depletion of  the precious green cover with each passing day with impunity.

Further, the unscientific chopping and cutting of hills under the name of all-weather road in Hills and indiscriminate dumping of rubble on the other side of the hills or rivers has shown serious impact on Ecological System of the Hills. Massive land slides and flash floods have compounded nature’s fury.

I remember back in 2004 I had filed PIL in Supreme Court on multistoried construction in Himachal Pradesh and also massive constructions in Kedarnath and valley of flowers.  A few year ago the nature has shown its might in Kedarnath and the victims are yet to come to terms with their lives as many perished, many are still missing and many have been crippled for life, having lost everything they had earned or decades.

Therefore, a balance must be maintained between Development and Environment otherwise Nature’s revenge is fatal and dangerous.

Thus, unless we plant trees all along highways, all the efforts to contain pollution and increase in Oxygen levels would fail.